Your patients are on Facebook

Facebook has over two billion active monthly users who spend an average of 35 minutes on the social media website every day. It’s where friends and family connect, plan events, share news and ask for recommendations. And, increasingly, Facebook is where people are going to share health information, get advice and find (or vet) physicians.

Simply put, for physicians, medical practices, specialty groups and other health professionals, social media – and Facebook in particular – is an essential tool they can use to engage with patients. In fact, it may be more essential than you realize.

A study  by PwC revealed that consumers choose “community” sites like Facebook 10 to 1 over physician and hospital websites when seeking health information. This study was done in 2012, a lifetime ago in online time. Since then, smartphone usage has skyrocketed, putting Facebook in the palms of just about everyone’s hands.

Consumer Expectations

The PwC study revealed that about one third of consumers are regularly using what they’ve dubbed “the social space” to have health discussions. This manifests in a few different ways.

  • Consumer reviews – 42% of consumers have used social media to get health-related consumer reviews

  • Support a cause – 30% have supported a health-related cause

  • Share an experience – 25% have posted about their health experience

  • Join a community – 20% have joined a health forum or community

  • Outreach – A recent survey by the American Osteopathic Association found that 43% of all adults think it’s appropriate to contact their physician about a health issue via social media either by posting on their page or direct messaging them

  • Action – Nearly one third of Americans have taken action related to their health because of something they read on social media

Additionally, more than 75% of consumers expect healthcare companies to respond within a day or less to appointment requests via social media and nearly half expect a response within a few hours.

While healthcare professionals need to be conscious of HIPAA laws and how they relate to social media, there is a lot that they can do to remain in compliance while maintaining a strong presence on Facebook.

Create a Facebook page for your practice

Remember that statistic we mentioned above? Consumers prefer community sites 10-1 over physician or hospital websites when looking for healthcare information. Facebook has a vested interest in keeping users on its platform, making it easy to create and share content in a variety of ways. While it may be ideal to have patients visit your website, the reality is that you’ll likely reach more people by migrating some content over to Facebook where you can also easily communicate with users.

Physicians and other healthcare professionals should absolutely create a Facebook page for their practice. It’s free and extremely easy to do. The page should include basic information – like hours of operation and contact information – but, more importantly, it should also be a communications hub between your practice, your patients and your community.

Here is an example of the Facebook page for Premier Medical Group, a specialty practice in the Hudson Valley. We worked with PMG to create a cohesive brand image which extends from their practice website to Facebook.

When PMG shares a post which contains valuable information (e.g., Halloween Safety Tips), people may choose to share this information with their Facebook friends who will see the post even if they’re not following the page. This is a great way for PMG to reach local people who may not know about them while benefiting from good old fashioned word of mouth (albeit of the high-tech variety).

Interact with your Facebook audience

Having a presence on Facebook isn’t enough. Physicians also need to actively engage with their Facebook audience (patients, potential patients, and whoever happens to engage with the content on their page). Make sure it’s someone’s job to monitor and respond to questions and  messages just like you would if someone called the office.

It’s also important to post content to your Facebook page on a consistent basis. Here are some things you can post:

  • Links to informative health articles either on your blog or other sites
  • Community events
  • Safety tips such as the the Halloween graphic noted above
  • Important announcements (e.g., we’re now accepting XYZ Insurance)
  • Staff changes, updates and bios
  • Awards and good news about the practice (e.g., we’re opening a new location!)

PMG used Facebook to announce that 7 of their physicians made the list of Top Doctors for 2018. This post got 60 likes, 14 comments and was shared 28 times.

Promote your posts and advertise

Facebook makes it extremely easy to advertise the content you post to your page by boosting posts. Any piece of content you share on your page can be boosted, including videos. This enables you to essentially turn the post into an ad which allows it to be seen by many more people than are connected with your page.

Our client, Crystal Run Health Plans, uses Facebook to promote open enrollment events to their followers and the larger community they serve. These posts can be boosted to increase reach beyond just those people connected to the page which is particularly important if the post isn’t widely shared.

You can also create Facebook ads which aren’t associated with a page post. These ads come in a variety of flavors including video, image, carousel and slideshow. We could devote an entire post to outlining the various ad types, so head over to Facebook’s ad guide if you want a quick overview of all the possibilities.

Conclusion – an integrated strategy

Social media is not a substitute for traditional communication channels. People still want to call your office. They still want to have face-to-face conversations with their doctors. They’ll still sit in waiting rooms and read magazines, turn on the radio and hear ads and watch TV (even if it’s on their phones). People are still going to visit your website too, but they’re also spending a lot of time on Facebook where their health is a hot topic.

Your Facebook strategy should align with your overall business strategy and your ultimate goals, whatever they may be. If you do this, then you’ll find that Facebook can be a powerful tool to help find new patients, communicate with existing ones and help you manage your practice.